Between 1959 and 1968, railway enthusiast Michael Marsden filmed the changing face of Britain’s railways and, for many years after mainline steam ended, he captivated audiences with his unique film collection. The blending of his film and that of other cameramen has resulted in a fascinating series of railway programmes.
On the 7th March 1966 the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway’s through route linking Bath and Bournemouth closed after operating for over one hundred years. An undulating and switchback route, the Somerset & Dorset was never a high-speed line and was often referred to as the ‘Slow and Dirty’, but nevertheless it generated a huge affection amongst railway enthusiasts.
In the first half of this programme, film taken by local cameraman Graham Jewiss between 1964 and 1966 features numerous locations on the 37 mile section between Bath and Templecombe. Many of the scenes were recorded at the now-closed Bath Green Park station, with a wide variety of steam locomotives at work. Heading south from Bath Green Park station, film locations include Bath Junction, Midford and Wellow stations, together with several notable engineering features including Devonshire Tunnel and Midford Viaduct. At Templecombe, the depot is shown, together with locomotive movements between the Upper and Lower stations.
At the southern end was Bournemouth and from here the programme heads west along the coast, pausing at Wareham, the junction station for the 10 mile Swanage branch, filmed in 1967 when the steam-hauled ‘Dorset Coast Express’ railtour made several trips up and down.
Continuing westwards, Weymouth is the next featured location where until 1987 a regular passenger rail service operated through the town’s streets, linking the main railway station and the harbour’s quay station. For many years, the Weymouth Harbour Tramway or Harbour Branch was a famous feature of rail operations and fascinating film from the 1960s shows lengthy trains carefully threading their way through the town’s busy streets.
Leaving Weymouth behind, the programme heads north to Bristol, where steam traction was still in evidence, despite the opening of Bath Road diesel depot. Continuing northwards, the next major feature starts at Cheltenham, which in 1962 still boasted three passenger stations. From Cheltenham St. James Station a cross-country service operated through Andoversford, Stow-on-the-Wold and Kingham to Chipping Norton. Scenes on this route in 1962 are complemented by film taken on the last day of steam services when a railtour travelled from Cheltenham to Chipping Norton. A return to Cheltenham features film of Jubilee Class 45552 ‘Silver Jubilee’ arriving at Cheltenham’s Lansdown Road in October 1963 at the head of The Thames, Avon and Severn railtour, where ‘Silver Jubilee’ was replaced by Castle Class 7005 ‘Sir Edward Elgar’.
The programme closes with film of the Wessex Downsman Railtour in 1965, the last full year of services on the route.
Running Time: 60 minutes